2021 Commencement Student Speakers

Student speakers, selected by their peers, addressed the graduates at the School of Public Health's Commencement Ceremony with reflections on their experiences at Brown. Learn more about these outstanding graduates!  

Dhruv Gaur, AB Public Health

Dhruv Gaur, AB Public Health

Dhruv concentrated in Public Health and Economics at Brown. He is interested in the health and economic well-being of our most stigmatized and marginalized populations. Dhruv, who is an aspiring PhD in economics, is interested in studying drug use, homelessness and housing insecurity, poverty, and inequality through the lens of economic and epidemiological inference. He works as a research assistant in the People, Place, and Health Collective in the School of Public Health, studying the US overdose crisis, and helped maintainPreventOverdoseRI.org, a website designed to help end the overdose crisis in Rhode Island. Dhruv is also an outreach worker and Co-Director for Housing Opportunities for People Everywhere (HOPE), a student-run housing justice organization. He was the April 2017 Jeopardy! College Champion, winning $100,000, and appeared in Jeopardy’s Tournament of Champions in 2019.

Kelsey Bala

Kelsey Bala, MPH

For her MPH training, Kelsey focused on maternal and child health. Before coming to Brown she worked as a clinical research assistant at Rhode Island Hospital in the Bradley Hasbro Children’s Research Center, where her primary research focus was on dating violence prevention and emotion regulation in early adolescence. At Brown she was a Hassenfeld Summer Scholar, and worked to identify resources for addressing food insecurity for pregnant women and young children in Rhode Island. She also currently serves as a co-lead of the School of Public Health’s Student Experience Subcommittee, a component of Dean Jha’s school-wide Operational Planning effort.

Thesis: The Impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences on Gestational Diabetes
Undergraduate Institution: Gordon College, B.S.


Shekinah Fashaw-Walters, PhD, Health Services Research

Shekinah is a first-generation PhD graduate, who has been involved as a community leader throughout her time here at Brown. She is proud to have served as the President of the Samuel M. Nabrit Black Graduate Student Association, a member of our school's DIAP committee, and a Sheridan Teaching Consultant, to name a few of the many positions that she held. Shekinah is a scholar of health equity and aging, has research interest in racism and its impacts on the quality of long-term services and supports for older adults. Her dissertation work was funded by the National Institute on Aging R36 dissertation award and this summer she will join the faculty at the University of Minnesota as a tenure track assistant professor.

Dissertation: Inequities in Home Health Access, Outcomes, and the Impact of Public Reporting
Undergraduate Institution: University of Central Florida, B.S. Graduate Institution: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, MSPH Health Policy and Management